The HBCU is looking to support the next generation of Black gymnasts.
Grambling University recently hosted a gymnastics conference and is looking to become the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to offer women’s gymnastics, The Associated Press reports.
The university recently hosted 100 Black and brown gymnasts for the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics conference. The organization was founded in 2015 by Derrin Moore to provide “scholarships, coaching, training and other forms of support to athletes from underrepresented and marginalized groups.”
In addition to helping athletes develop, the organization also provides workshops to assist parents with supporting their young athletes and information on how to graduate from entry-level programs to the elite level.
“It’s just giving families a little edge. We want to give them information so they can step into the gymnastics arena and be confident and advocating for their girls,” Moore said.
While gymnastics used to be dominated by white athletes, demographics are slowly but surely changing. More than half of the 18 women invited to Olympic trials last month were Black and Black women make up nearly 10% of the scholarship athletes at the NCAA’s Division 1 level, with more than 10% of USA Gymnastics members self-identifying as Black.
With the rise of gymnast powerhouses like Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, there is an uptick in athletes of color participating in the sport.
“Simone has opened the eyes to so many women of color saying, ‘Hey, you can do this, too.’ It’s not just little skinny white girls that can do it. Anyone can do it,” Cecile Landi, Biles’ co-coach alongside husband Laurent, said.
Organizations like Brown Girls Do Gymnastics are helping to support that uptick, offering opportunities for athletes of color to have access to gym space. They receive affordable membership fees at places like Power Moves Gymnastics & Fitness and networking opportunities like the trip to Grambling and the opportunity to participate in the Isla Invitational, an exhibition competition held in tandem with the annual conference.
“Our University leadership is looking at young gymnasts in our community, and realizing and understanding the path from toddler gymnastics tumbling to the Olympics for a Black and brown gymnast is arduous. [What we’re wondering is ] How can we make it a smoother one,” Raven Thissel, marketing, and public relations director for The Doug Williams Center at Grambling, said.
This is opening doors for the next Simone Biles, we love it!
Photo Courtesy of Brown Girls Do Gymnastics